No Problem, Honey

One of Tartlet 1’s favorite jokes is: When is a chef cruel?
A: When she beats the eggs and whips the cream!

My Christmas baking still hasn’t progressed very far as we’ve been wrapping up school work and we’ve had a lot of things on our ‘to-do lists’. So this didn’t involve beating any eggs, just whipping a bit of cream!

Tuesday, as we were anticipating the arrival of The In-Laws the next day, The Husband called to ask if I could provide a dessert for a party on Thursday he had forgotten about. Although my initial sarcastic response was ‘Sure, honey, I’m not really doing anything this week’, I started thinking of something easy I could make that would still not let him down. The In-Laws weren’t able to arrive after all, but I still went with something simple — a repeat Turtle Truffle Tart. But this is a dessert that stands repeating, and I don’t think I’ve made one for this group before. It looks far more complicated than it is. The base is my standard Shortbread Crust, topped with pecans and caramel and a layer of chocolate melted with heavy cream, all staple ingredients in my kitchen and easy to whip up. *evil laugh*

Toffee Bars

The remainder of the Thanksgiving leftovers have been consumed, frozen, or made into soup and now the Christmas baking and party season begins!  The next couple of weeks I plan to highlight some of my favorite recipes for cookies and party fare.  Some foods really do take a long time to prepare to have a good looking presentation and excellent flavor.  These bars do not.  These bars are a hostess’ friend.  They are made of ingredients that are staples in my kitchen, probably yours too.

Toffee Bars

1 c. flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter, melted

1 1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. chopped pecans

Stir together flour, sugar, and butter. Press into the bottom of an 8 x 8-inch pan. Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes or until golden.

Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips over the top and allow to melt. If there are some that don’t melt, put the pan back in the oven for a minute. Spread the chocolate evenly over the top. Sprinkle with pecans. Cool completely before serving.

Red, White, and Goo

It’s fresh berry season and who can resist the beauty and exquisite taste of fresh berries? Not me. Before we left for Montana I had this idea for making a white chocolate fudge with blueberries and strawberries for a patriotic dish. Well, I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand that I thought I did, so it was shelved until we returned. Even then, I didn’t have as much white chocolate as I thought I did so it was really soft and had to be frozen to stay firm at all, but it tasted so good I knew I would try again. And frozen ‘fudge’ isn’t a bad thing in summer!

So last week I attempted this again, but I have to tell you that I didn’t improve it much. I think my idea is just fated to failure because, even though I thoroughly dried the fruit before adding it to the white chocolate, it gets a little watery around the fruit and becomes a runny, drippy mess. It only holds together when frozen and it seems to melt rather rapidly. The first time I had better quality white chocolate than the second, too. I’ll probably tinker with this a little more, but I’ll give you what I’ve done so far. Meanwhile, I’m working on a different entry for Sugar High Friday.

Patriotic Fudge

18 oz white chocolate
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 t. orange extract

fresh blueberries, washed and patted dry
fresh strawberries, washed, chopped, and patted dry

In a heavy pan over low heat, melt the chocolate with the milk, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from heat and add the extract.

Fold in 3/4 of the fruit. Pour into a buttered pan, 8×10 or 9×13. Sprinkle remaining fruit on top. Freeze until firm.

Truffling With Your Affections

Today was the farewell for Mrs. V. The astute reader may remember there was a farewell last fall but only Mr. V. left us for TX at that time. Now their house has finally sold and they will be reunited (*yay!*) but we are sad to see them leave (*boo!*). Once again I wanted to make something that would suit her particular list of allergies. I made truffles.

You may be saying to yourself, “That doesn’t seem allergy friendly at all,” but I made several kinds. I saw some recipes online for goat cheese truffles, from several sources so I don’t have a specific link, and decided to play with that concept a little to make it edible for our friend. For the savory batch I simply copied a recipe I saw repeatedly — smooth some goat cheese around a grape and roll it in ground pistachios, all foods Mrs. V. can eat!

For the ‘sweet’ ones, I used agave syrup for the sweetener and used both unsweetened chocolate and cocoa powder to flavor the cheese. I rolled some of these in pistachios and some in cocoa powder.

In addition, I made some non-allergy friendly cold s’mores. I rolled a large marshmallow (small ones would have been nice, if I had some) in chocolate ganache (heat whipping to simmering and add chopped chocolate, stir until melted and smooth), allowing the ‘excess chocolate’ (is there such a thing?!) to drip off before rolling the marshmallow in graham cracker crumbs. I made some ‘regular’ truffles as well.

And now I leave you for a week while we go play at the beach, my most favorite week of the year! I have a little something in store for you next week while I’m gone, so hopefully you won’t miss me too much. 😉

Chocolate Goat Cheese Truffles

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
5 Tbsp. agave syrup
2 Tbsp. canola oil
5 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
12 oz. plain goat cheese

In a small bowl, stir together chocolate, agave syrup, oil, and cocoa until smooth. In a medium bowl, beat the goat cheese for 30 seconds. Add the chocolate mixture and beat well. Roll into balls and toppings of your choice.

Shortbread Bars

When I have someone over for dinner in the middle of the week, I often pick some quick and easy dessert so I don’t derail schooling in favor of entertaining. I’d much rather bake something fancy than be the taskmaster for school, but I don’t want our schooling to drag on to ‘infinity and beyond’, so I usually force myself to be reasonable. Last night Crystal joined us for a very homey dinner of ham and split pea soup (or split ham & pea soup) with roast beef hash & frozen veggies for those who prefer not to eat soup. You can tell she’s becoming ‘family’ rather than ‘guest’ when I’m serving such plain fare!

For dessert we had shortbread bars. This is a basic recipe that I use over and over. Some of my favorite variations are to leave out the mini chocolate chips and put lemon or orange zest and/or extract in the crust and my all-time favorite filling is raspberry seedless jam, but I also like blackberry, boysenberry, cherry, or huckleberry. Strawberry is what I had in the cabinet yesterday. Sometimes I add nuts (1/2 c. chopped pecans), especially to the top layer. It’s really fast to threw together and it’s usually pretty popular. I frequently double the recipe for a 9 x 13 pan when I’m serving a crowd.

Shortbread Bars

2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. butter (or margarine)
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. vanilla

1/2 c. mini chocolate chips

10 oz jar berry preserves

Heat oven to 350 F. In large mixer bowl, combine flour, sugar, butter, salt, and vanilla. Beat at low speed until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (or cut in butter by hand). Stir in chocolate chips. Reserve 1/2 – 3/4 c. crumb mixture.

Press remaining mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch square baking pan. Spread preserves over crumb mixture. Sprinkle reserved crumb mixture over the top and, if desired, 1/2 c. chopped pecans.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned and preserves are bubbly. Cool completely; cut into bars.